10 shampoos for dry scalps, sensitive skin and eczema

Anyone with dry sensitive skin will know that using the wrong shampoo can cause an itcy, dry, flaky scalp which is painful, frustrating and can get infected. Anti-Dandruff shampoo isn’t always the answer but you might think it would be easy to find the perfect shampoo. A quick trip to the local chemists or pharmacy will show you that there are so many on the shelves but very few that say they are suitable for a dry scalp, eczema, psoriasis, sensitive skin etc. So how do you know which to try?

I went shopping to the health food shops thinking, well this will be easy, I can grab something and try it out. But buying shampoo seems to be all about hair and nothing about scalp. The bottles all advertise their qualities for volumising, moisturising, cleansing, good for normal hair, oily hair, dry hair, dyed hair, damaged hair. What about people with dry, itchy, flaky scalps?

After much searching I did get some good advice from a lady at Holland and Barrett who I always find really helpful. She suggested their Dr Organic range and the Tea Tree and Aloe vera products which makes sense to me as I already use both of these natural products on my skin anyway. She also recommended the Dr Organic shampoo with olive oil in it but where do you start and how do you know which is going to work for you? I guess it’s just trial and error and more error than success if my experience is anything to go by.

I have a few that I’ve used regularly but recently noticed that the TreSemme shampoo I had been using was beginning to make my scalp a little dry. Not awful, but a quick scan of the ingredients wasn’t encouraging. I’ve tried a few others over the years and here are the best and some to consider which I found in my endless trawling of the shops for answers.

So, in no particular order, the best, the not so good and not that great shampoos that I’ve tried…

  1. Neutrogena T-gel shampoo
  2. Everyone has heard of Neutrogena and I have used it in the past, not least because on first looking it appears to be the only suitable product in the shops.
    Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo for sensitive scalps
    However it’s very expensive and I have never found their products that great for my skin. This is what they say, “Neutrogena® T/Gel® Therapeutic Shampoo is a fragranced medicated shampoo, which should be used as often as needed or as recommended by your dermatologist or doctor, for the treatment of itchy, flaky scalp disorders such as dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis.”

    I’m not sure the ingredients are really that good for sensitive scalps and eczema. See what you think here: NeutarTM Solubilised Coal Tar Extract 20 mg/ml. Macrogol lauryl ether (4), Sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLS), Cocodiethanolamide, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Imidazolidinyl urea, Methyl parahydoxybenzoate (E218), Propyl parahydroxybenzoate (E216), Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric acid anhydrous, Perfume (contains Esters of benzoic acid, methyl benzoate and benzyl benzoate), Sodium chloride and Purified water.

    The only ingredient here that actually sounds healing, kind and suitable for sensitive skin is purified water. It contains both SLS and perfume which can be irritants to sensitive skin. I don’t like the sound of all those azo’s, ido’s and oxy’s much either. They also do other varieties, one of which is fragrance free, but this contains a whole bucket load of parabens. Not great either! Since this shampoo doesn’t leave my scalp even feeling that great and the ingredients are pretty nasty I’ve ditched the Neutrogena in search of something more natural and healing. At between £5 to £6 for just 125ml it’s also very expensive if you don’t really like the results.

  3. Allergenics gentle medicated shampoo
  4. After using Neutrogena I didn’t think I would like this one much as I don’t like the medicated coal tar smell of Neutrogena but this one has a very pleasant light smell. Again though, this shampoo is not cheap at about £7.49 for 200ml from Holland and Barrett.

    Allergenics gently medicated shampoo

    This is what they say, “Allergenics Preservative Free Emollient, Gentle Medicated Shampoo, with natural Phytosterols.

    • Hypo allergenic
    • 100% Natural origin
    • Dermatologically Tested
    • Allergy Tested
    • pH 5.5
  5. A dermatologically proven, preservative free cleanser
  6. Suitable for those prone to dry, itchy skin conditions
  7. Allergenics Gentle Medicated Shampoo has been formulated after extensive research and dermatological studies in the field of allergies. It is a highly effective gentle cleansing treatment, particularly suitable for those with easily irritated, sensitive scalps. Free from harsh detergents, and does not damage the scalps delicate cellular structure.

    100% Natural origin, 100% Preservative free and 100% Soap free.”

    Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis leaf juice, Aqua, Decyl Glucoside, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate (from coconut), Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Sterol, Capryloyl Glycine, Coco Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Aroma, Glyceryl Caprylate, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid.
    Free from: No SLS, SLES, parabens

    I quite liked this shampoo, much better than Neutrogena. It left my hair feeling squeaky clean and my scalp wasn’t too bad when I was trying this one out. The ingredients also look quite good, it doesn’t contain any of the known big nasties but there are some there I don’t really know. More research needed.

  8. Dr Organic Aloe Vera Shampoo
  9. Dr Organic Aloe Vera shampoo

    Dr Organic Aloe Vera shampoo

    This is the shampoo I’m using right now. It does have a faint perfume and looking at the ingredients below there are a few alarm bells ringing. It may be organic but are all these ingredients natural and good for you? There is an SLS though not the usual one and also Limonene, linalool and parfum.

    This is what they say… “A strengthening and protecting shampoo formulated with Organic Aloe Vera. This extremely mild and gentle shampoo is recommended for dry and normal hair and scalp types leaving hair soft, hydrated and manageable even with frequent use. It protects and fortifies the hair, controls split ends, gives nourishment to the scalp and is perfect for maintaining hair in lustrous shiny condition.”

    Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Aqua (water), Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, Sodium cocoamphoacetate, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride, Coco-glucoside, Glyceryl oleate, Sorbitan sesquicaprylate, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Parfum*, Limonene, Linalool, Citric acid.

    I couldn’t find a product in this range which was sold for sensitive skin and dry scalps. The skin on my scalp isn’t great at the moment, so kind of indicates that this stuff isn’t the best choice out there. It isn’t actually irritating my skin but it’s not really helping the dry skin condition much either. Keep on searching…

  10. Lush soak and float
  11. Lush Soak and Float shampoo bar

    Lush say that it is “A no-nonsense shampoo bar to help soothe scalps. Cade oil is derived from juniper and has long been used to treat scalps with psoriasis, dandruff and eczema. Rose and marigold petals calm the scalp and soothe redness, whilst lavender oil has been added for its antibacterial and balancing effects on the scalp.”

    Ingedients: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Water (Aqua), Cade Oil, Lavender Oil, Marigold Petals, Rose Petals, *Limonene, *Linalool, Perfume

    What you do is get the soap bar wet and lather it in your hands then rub it over your scalp and work it into your hair till you’ve coated the hair. I find it has a very strong medicated, burnt kind of smell but it works OK, doesn’t keep my hair feeling clean and shiny for as long as normal shampoo. The next day it feels sort of coated and as if it needs washing again. I like it for travelling or holidays where you might be showering every day after a day on the beach, on the saddle or the slopes and it also won’t leak as it’s just a soap bar. Most importantly it is kind to my scalp and doesn’t irritate my skin. From the ingredients list there are things here that may cause irritation including Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Linalool and Limonene. You can also buy a little tin to carry it in. They also do a nettle and tea tree soap bar which might be worth a try though I haven’t tried that one myself. Be aware though that most Lush products contain parabens and perfume so ask for the sensitive skin products and always read the ingredients list. https://www.lush.co.uk/products/soak-and-float

  12. Barefoot SOS Shampoo
  13. Barefoot SOS Dry skin shampoo

    Barefoot SOS Dry skin shampoo

    I have this shampoo at home too and do enjoy using it, though I don’t use it all the time as it’s also not cheap at about £13 for 200ml, but cheap isn’t always best. If it’s a better product and kinder on your skin, scalp etc. then it’s a winner in my book. The BareFoot SOS brand also featured in the FreeFrom Skincare Awards so you can take that as proof it has great credentials.

    Barefoot SOS Scalp Treatment Shampoo is a gentle, deep cleansing treatment shampoo that combines the highest quality blend of natural moisturisers, comforting botanical plant extracts and pure essential oils to leave the hair cleansed and shiny, and the scalp relaxed, hydrated and soothed.

    Barefoot SOS Scalp Treatment Shampoo contains:

    • Calendula and Nettle nourish the scalp and promote glossy hair
    • Botanical extracts of White Willow and Aloe soothe and calm the scalp
    • Horsetail Extract helps boost collagen and elastin for a healthy scalp and hair
    • Pure Essential Oils of French Lavender, Rosemary and Geranium refresh the scalp

  14. Nizoral dandruff shampoo
  15. Nizoral dandruff shampoo
    I have used this in the past, you have to massage into the scalp, leave for about 10-15 minutes and then rinse off. It did help a bit but it comes in such a minute little bottle that at about £6 a bottle for just 60ml of shampoo it’s VERY expensive.

    I also couldn’t find out what the ingredients were, only that the active ingredient is Ketoconazole 20mg/g. Any product that doesn’t volunteer ingredients up front must have something to hide. I will keep searching for this information and update when I do.

  16. Green people Irritated scalp shampoo
  17. Green People irritated scalp shampoo
    I really like the look of this one as I love their sunscreen but haven’t bought any yet. It costs about £10-11 for 200ml but this does look to be the price you pay for something with a nice ingredients list.

    This is what they say, “Finding your natural hair oils are over producing? Finding yourself with an itchy or irritated scalp? Look no further as Green People have created a marvellous shampoo that will cleanse, stimulate and control your hairs bad days! Not only will the shampoo leave your hair feeling fresh, it helps to relieve symptoms of itchy scalp and help to reduce the appearance of dandruff. Blended with Organic Rosemary and Pineapple, this gorgeously scented shampoo will last longer than mainstream products as a little goes along way!”

    Ingredients: AQUA (SPRING WATER), GLYCERIN (VEGETABLE DERIVED), DECYL GLUCOSIDE (DERIVED FROM CORN), SODIUM COCOAMPHOACETATE (DERIVED FROM COCONUT), COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINAMIDE MEA CHLORIDE (DERIVED FROM COCONUT), BETAINE (SOOTHING PLANT EXTRACT), ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA) LEAF JUICE POWDER*, ANANAS SATIVUS (PINEAPPLE) FRUIT EXTRACT, AROMA [ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS (ROSEMARY) LEAF OIL*^, LAVANDULA ANGUSTIFOLIA (LAVENDER) HERB OIL*^, LAVANDULA HYBRIDA (LAVANDIN) HERB OIL*], OLEA EUROPAEA (OLIVE) FRUIT OIL*, LINALOOL*. *ORGANIC INGREDIENTS, ^FAIRLY TRADED (Period After Opening 12M)

  18. Make your own shampoo with soap nuts and rhasoul
  19. Rhassoul clay - Image from Natural Spa Supplies

    Rhassoul clay – Image from Natural Spa Supplies

    I bought my rhassoul from Natural Spa Supplies and all you need to do is mix the clay with water, leave for 10 minutes and then add a little more water to get the consistency you prefer.

    For full details of how to make it visit the Natural Spa Supplies website above but although it sounds like a bit of a faff, it does last a week or so. You just make a little bit as you need it. I haven’t tried this one yet but have been reading lots of other blogs about how much others love it, mainly people going for a greener lifestyle.

    It’s the next shampoo on my list to try and it sounds lovely, you simply massage the clay mixture into your scalp, don’t rub it into your hair. When you’ve massaged your whole scalp, comb the clay through your hair, especially if you have long hair, and rinse.

From those featured above, my favourites so far have been Allergenics and BareFoot SOS. Dr Organics isn’t bad but isn’t helping my skin heal.

My search for the perfect shampoo has proved anything but easy. It seems most shops don’t know what products they sell and those shops you do trust have products which appear great but perhaps have ingredients which are not quite so appealing.

Maybe there isn’t a shampoo out there that won’t make my scalp dry and flaky but I do have a few things that help. Avoiding using a hair dryer makes a huge difference and if you really have to use one, try the cool setting so you don’t dry your skin out so much.

I also have some lovely scalp oils from Pure Potions and Organic babies. These really help, but as soon as I wash the oil out, which can take a few shampoos, my scalp is dry again.

Another website to follow to find out about great freefrom natural skin care products is the FreeFrom Skincare Awards website. Another great brand which featured in the awards for 2014 was Faith in Nature. They don’t feature in my list above because I tried one of their shampoos years ago and didn’t get on with it. However I shall be having another look at their range and ingredients and seeing what they have to offer too in 2015. Who said washing your hair was boring! I might have an improved list of amazing hair care products for you later this year.

For further reading I have literally just stumbled upon Shampoo for eczema website which has lots of other suggestions here.

Which is your favourite shampoo for dry scalps and eczematous, sensitive skin?

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About RuthS

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She runs a support group for the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also writes regularly for Exchange, The National Eczema Society quarterly magazine.

Comments

  1. Nathanael Inkson says:

    Some of those might be ok for my skin but I generally avoid all SLS. I use Dr Bronners soaps for my hair which are 100% natural oils and the tea tea one is great. although I don’t get on with the green tea and mint due to salicylate intolerance. I’d recommend them.

    • I haven’t heard of Dr Bronners so I will definitely check those out. I just remember Jason Australian shampoo which I used years ago and I think was quite good. I like the idea of just using a soap on your hair though, would you then use the same soap to wash your body? I am going to have to widen my search and do a blog about the REAL simple freefrom irritation shampoos next time.

      • I actually don’t recommend dr.bronners. It’s not bad, but for me it didn’t worked out. I have really thin and sensitive skin and their products ended up drying my skin to much. I tried to dilute it but it seemed to much worked and I didn’t always got the same consistency that I wanted, so I switched to treetotub.com products. Their products are hypoallergenic for now, they have worked great on my skin. I highly recommend it.

        • Hi Nora, I’m not over keen on their products either but I know they work for some. I will look for treetotub.com – never heard of that. Thank you.

  2. hope we can speak sometime 01730 812349. all those shampoos sound doubtful . I can’t cope with teatree, burns my skin. citiric acid is made out of corn for starters. The best yet are the Moo Goo products developed for cows by an Australian. All natural ingredients including scalp cream which is mildly antifungal. http://www.MooGoo.com.au I found it by chance in a local chemist.

    • Shampoo for cows? Well I never. I am not happy with my list either, but I’m getting there. Just shows how hard it is to find a simple SLS free, irritant free shampoo or soap. I will check them out for the update on this one… heh heh. Feel like I didn’t really find 10 great shampoos but it’s a start

      • Moo Goo was developed for cows irritated udders and then developed for humans with skin problems. Do look at web site. Am doing well with scalp cream for dermatitis on my neck

        • I have had a look and when I get home (staying away at the moment) I will order some. Sounds really nice, and every time I use it I will be grateful to the cows ;o)

  3. Liz Earle does shampoos and conditioners
    Without SLs online via qvc or Liz Earle might be worth a try.

  4. Should also have said loreal do one with no SLS

  5. Sarah Taylor-Fergusson says:

    I had the worst allergic reaction in the world to the first shampoo on your list here, the Neutrogena T Gel coal tar shampoo for sensitive skin. It burned my neck and shoulders and collarbone. Lasted two weeks. Extreme photosensitivity in the spring daylight from the coal tar and also product reaction too I believe. I am now taking oral steroids and a cream stronger than steroids to heal my skin after a couple of washes with this stuff. Took me a while to work it out as I am also allergic to foods, but I would caution others against this product too.

    • Ohhh that sounds awful. I am now writing another blog with some much nicer products. This blog I wrote after going rough the shops looking for what was on the market. Actually whether these products are really kind to skin and scalps is another matter. Seems anything can be marketed for sensitive skin, eczema etc. yet not be that healing or gentle. Watch this space for the update. Green People and Barefoot SOS from above and the Rhassoul clay have been the best of this lot above so far but my year of trying different shampoos has unearthed some other very good ones.

  6. After spending years trying to work out why my hair was thinning and my head itchy sore painful and with small lumps appearing on and off (which I am still getting all symptoms) I found I was allergic to SLS and all other nasties they put in shampoos and conditioners. I have been using allergenics shampoo which was ok up to about three months ago, and previous to that Dr organics but both of these are now really irritating my scalp, to the point of which I have been using betnovate lotion prescribed by my GP. This is not working either. Seeing your comments on the top ten shampoos green people irritated shampoo sounds good so I am going to give this a go. I might eventually hit the jackpot before I completely loose all my hair!

    • I have been trying Organic Babies shampoo from green people and also Odylique gentle herb shampoo. If you are brave enough, check rhassoul clay to wash your hair. I’ve blogged about this. Bit of a faff but really gentle to your scalp.

      • I think I may have cracked it. I ordered the green people shampoo and conditioner. I have been using this for just over two weeks together with jojoba oil on my scalp a couple if times a week for about half an hour. My scalp is slowly but surely calming down. It doesn’t feel so itchy anymore, there is hardly any hair in the plug hole as before when I washed my hair there was loads. When I gently brush my hair through after washing it, there is hardly any hair on the brush. I just hope that the hair that I have lost grows back. I’m so glad I found this site. The smell of the shampoo smells a bit medicinal but is not horrible, the conditioner is really nice and between both of them you don’t need a lot. I hope they don’t change their ingredients and this is the beginning of the end of my misery. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I’m always looking at people that appear to have thinning hair and almost want to ask them what shampoo they are using, as I bet half of the problem is all the sulfates and parabens and other nasties that are being put in them.

        • Oh I too love the Green People products. I think I’ve found a shower gel that is great for me and a shampoo. Great minds think alike.

        • Suzanne,
          Hows the green people shampoo? Are you still using it?
          I have the same scalp problem like you.
          My only shampoo that works well with me discontinued its production in 2012. Eversince then im suffering with the same symptoms you mentioned. I really need help.
          I dont want to lose my hair. Tried different shampoo but to no avail, i couldn’t find that works with my scalp.

          • Hi Nina, Try Green People and also Organic Babie’s shampoo is good for me. It’s hard though because we are all very different. What works for me may not be any good for you at all. Have you thought of trying Morrocan clay and going back to basics?

  7. I have had a lot of problems with hair products, and finally found Desert Essence shampoo, which causes me no problems. I have tried several of them, but have settled on the coconut. Unfortunately, I think that the matching conditioner makes me itchy.

    • Thanks Mary, this sounds very interesting. I’m writing an update to this blog post as I’ve found lots of other shampoos that are way better than the ones chemists recommend. Watch this space. I might include a mention of this one too since it clearly works for you.

  8. Best I have ever used is the Karmin 😉

  9. Bobby Beardruss says:

    Hi. I have the worst scalp ever and currently in the midst of a constant itch! Arghhh! T-gel makes my scalp horrendous and Nizarol makes my scalp smell like wet dog! Seriously! Anyway, a great range to use is A’kin (the unfragranced one). I was going to use products up (including t-gel and Nizarol) before repurchasing this range but nothing else is working for me so it looks like I’ll be placing a order later on… I’m writing this at 6:25hrs btw as I have been awake since 4:30 scratching my scalp.. The struggle is real… :0/

    • I find Tgel and Nizoral amongst the worst for my scalp – go figure! I’m using Skin Blossom shampoo at the moment and it’s great. Actually quite cheap too. Check it out. Also, if you feel like an experiment, buy some organic rhassoul clay, mix with water and wash your hair and body with that. All natural and super kind to skin. I need to use a cider vinegar and water conditioner of it leaves hair a bit lank but it’s worth doing if you can. Just a bit messy (it’s red clay all over the shower and bath) and you need to mix it regularly in small quantities.

  10. Suzanne, your scalp sounds like mine. Are you still doing well with the green products shampoo and conditioner or did your body figure out it didn’t like them? (That’s what always happens to me when I think I’ve found a good one).
    BC

  11. You need to use a shampoo that does not have chemicals and has only SOOTHING ingredients. I tried alot of them – finding one without chemicals is hard. Aloe Vera is soothing…coconut oil is soothing…these are the ingredients you should be looking for in a shampoo. For the last month, I have been using the Somaluxe Shampoo (purchased online at Lady Soma), and it has been great cause its super moisturizing…and doesn’t have any chemicals that aggravate my eczema.

  12. Pro Naturals makes the best in my opinion!!

    • OOOh I haven’t tried that one. I’ll look out for it. I’m using Skin Blossom herbal shampoo at the moment which is very good.

  13. Some might find they are allergic to fragrance as I have; it can be hidden. I’ve found many a bottle to say “fragrance free”, but then find fragrance is listed on the back as an added ingredient, so be careful! After chemical patch testing, and finding I’m allergic to a few chemicals, as well as all fragrance, (which is in EVERYTHING) I’ve had to work off the National database for Contact Allergen Management Program (CAMP). I still find it hard to find a good shampoo after 7 LONG years. I have tried Free and Clear products, Dermarest, and Earth Science’s fragrance free conditioner.

  14. Nettie Hamilton says:

    The best I’ve used is the shampoo from Pro Naturals 😉

  15. Everything you are recommending i’m allergic to. Lavender is linalool. I’m not sure if you were aware of that. Also as an asthmatic with allergies I can’t use anything with fragrance or perfume. I was wondering if you would mind if I suggest a few you may like that are safe for people with perfume allergies?

    The Desert Essence leaves my hair silky: https://www.desertessence.com/fragrance-free

    • If you’re up for a challenge Rebecca you could try Rhassoul Clay, mix your own shampoo and use a cider vinegar rinse for conditioning. I found it works really well but is a bit of a fiddle. Makes the shower a bit muddy if you get the idea, but it certainly works as well as any normal shampoo. I’ll look at no lavender shampoos for you too. I have also written a newer blog on this subject as I found most of these, that are supposed to be good for eczema didn’t really suit me. Check out http://whatallergy.com/2015-08/irritant-and-sls-free-shampoos-for-eczema-skin-an-update

    • Hiya, I also have Asthma and allergies and need fragrance free. A baby brand called Humphrey’s corner do a beautiful one. It has no fragrance/perfume at all and very simple ingredients, but is the best smelling of any fragrance free I’ve found. It’s the same company as Faith In Nature, which also does a fragrance free, although I personally don’t find the FIN one to smell as nice as the HC one. It leaves my hair soft and shiny, no need for conditioner. (Fine straight hair) Although I can personally only get one day out of it as my hair will turn greasy on the 2nd day with this stuff. Lovely body/ face wash.

      My personal fave for condition, volume and longevity (2days for me is great & I don’t need conditioner with that one either) is Johnsons Baby Sensitive Touch fragrance free. It’s THE best shampoo I’ve ever used, but one problem, the company has now discontinued it because not enough people were buying it! But if you can find a bottle knocking around a shop shelf somewhere (think ocado still have some) it’s worth a try. Maybe if enough people beg them they might bring it back!?
      Previous to that I was using Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour shampoo, way expensive though ? and I really think the Johnsons one is miles better!

      For those of you itching that can take some fragrance… Philip Kingsley Flakey Itchy is a miricle worker (fragrance is Apple smell) (used to use the stuff in my fragranced days gone by. My scalp would literally bleed from itching until I used this stuff!)

  16. exorex hair and body shampoo is excellent.

  17. Brenda Hamner says:

    I have been using the shampoo de Pro Naturals and works really well for my hair 😉

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